What happens when a star approaches a black hole?

In dense stellar environments, interactions between stars and stellar-mass black holes should occur frequently. Through hydrodynamical simulations, researchers at MPA have explored how stars are disrupted in such encounters, varying key parameters such as stellar and black hole masses, stellar age, and approach distance. The study quantifies the impact of these initial parameters on stellar remnants' masses, spins, and trajectories, offering insights into cluster dynamics and providing best-fit formulae for post-disruption parameters. more

Our Neighborhood in the Milky Way in 3D

High-resolution three-dimensional maps of the Milky Way have previously been limited to the immediate vicinity of the Sun. In a collaboration led by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics with researchers from Harvard, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the University of Toronto, we were now able to build a high-resolution map of the Milky Way in 3D out to more than 4,000 light-years. The produced 3D map will be highly useful for a wide range of applications from star formation to cosmological foreground correction. more

Magnetic fields in multiphase gas: A turbulent tango

Space is filled with gases of vastly different temperatures and it is important to understand how these interact. A group of scientists at MPA has now looked into the mixing of gases with and without magnetic fields. Surprisingly, they find that the outcome depends on whether turbulence is already present at the beginning. Without turbulence, magnetic fields can suppress the mixing by suppressing turbulence, while if the turbulence is already present, magnetic fields have a marginal effect. more

SPICE connects stellar feedback in the first galaxies and cosmic reionisation

The first billion years saw the transformation of a cold neutral Universe to a hot and ionised one. This Epoch of Reionisation is thought to come about from stellar radiation from the first galaxies. Understanding the nature of the galaxies that drove reionisation remains a key question. Scientists at MPA have designed a novel suite of simulations to systematically understand how different modes of energy and mass injection from stars affect the first galaxies. According to these new models, subtle differences in the behaviour of stellar feedback drive profound differences in the morphologies of galaxies and the speed at which they ionise the universe. Combining these findings with the latest observations will help constrain feedback models in the first billion years of the Universe. more

Most energetic stellar collisions in the Universe

In dense stellar environments, stars can collide. If there is a massive black hole nearby – at the centre of galaxies – these collisions can be so energetic that the two stars are completely destroyed upon collision, leaving behind an expanding gas cloud. While the collision itself can generate a very luminous flare for several days, there might be an even brighter flare that can last up to many months, as the gas cloud is captured by the nearby black hole. A research team led by MPA has estimated the observables of such powerful events for the first time using the two state-of-the-art codes AREPO and MESA, developed at MPA. more

What happens when you put a star inside a star?

Throwing one star into another into another star does not bode well for either star. However, given the right conditions and the right types of stars this can lead to the stars merging and forming one single object. If one of the stars is a neutron star (the dense stellar remnant after a supernovae) it can sink to the center of the other star replacing that star’s core. Such objects are called Thorne-Żytkow objects (TŻOs) as they where first proposed by Kip Thorne and Anne Żytkow. Now an international team of astrophysicists led by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) has re-evaluated what these TŻOs look like and whether we can find them. more

Effects of Neutrino Fast Flavor Conversions on Core-Collapse Supernovae

Neutrinos are the driving factor for core-collapse supernovae, the violent death of massive stars. According to the neutrino-driven mechanism they are responsible for transferring energy from the hot proto-neutron star (PNS) to the surrounding material. So far, numerical simulations assumed that neutrinos retain their flavor during propagation. Max Planck researchers have now shown that allowing for flavor conversions has a direct influence on the supernova dynamics. more

If dark matter is fuzzy, then how fuzzy is it?  - A gravitational lens has the answer

Dark matter, which makes up over 80% of the mass in the Universe, does not absorb or emit light, interacting with light and normal (baryonic) matter only through its gravitational pull. The nature of dark matter is one of the major open questions in astrophysics and cosmology. One theoretical model for dark matter, known as fuzzy dark matter (FDM), is predicted to leave a very specific imprint on light that is bent around a massive galaxy in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. By examining the radio light in a gravitational lens system observed at extremely high angular resolution, we have determined just how “fuzzy” the dark matter can be. more

Manipulative communication in humans and machines

A universal sign of higher intelligence is communication. However, not all communications are well-intentioned. How can an intelligent system recognise the truthfulness of information and defend against attempts to deceive? How can a egoistic intelligence subvert such defences? What phenomena arise in the interplay of deception and defence? To answer such questions, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, the University of Sydney and the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien in Tübingen have studied the social interaction of artificial intelligences and observed very human behaviour. more

Astronomers witness a monstrous galaxy consuming its neighbour

Observing a supermassive black hole in the distant Universe, MPA astronomers have discovered that it is in the process of stripping gas from a neighbouring galaxy. The gas is being very quickly turned into stars in the black hole’s host galaxy and is allowing the black hole to grow very quickly. This agrees with theoretical predictions that massive galaxies and black holes form with help from mergers with smaller galaxies and bursts of star formation. more

Black hole accretion discs may dance around more slowly than previously thought

Black holes, resulting from the death of massive stars, are some of the most exotic and powerful objects in the Universe. Since even light cannot escape these objects, the quasi-periodic signals coming from the gas falling into the black hole serve as a probe to infer a great deal of information about the black hole and its surrounding environment. The most-commonly observed quasi-periodic signal is thought to originate from the wobbling of hot gas around the black hole, like a spinning top. One problem, though, is that inferred size of this (isolated) corona seemed to be inconsistent with estimations from other observables. With our recent, state-of-the-art computer simulations, involving a more realistic geometry of the accretion flow, we demonstrated for the first time, that the presence of a disc around the corona significantly slows down its precession, relieving much of the tension between this model and observations. These results thus have important implications for studies of black hole properties and how black hole systems form and evolve. more

The lingering imprint of the first cosmic structures

The universe today is host to a vast network of galaxies and an even richer array of invisible dark matter structures. But this was not always the case. The universe was nearly uniform until a time of about 100 million years, when the first cosmic structures gravitationally condensed. These objects were made of dark matter alone and each may have weighed no more than the Earth. Most of these objects do not last long: they rapidly grow and cluster together to form the much larger systems that we know today. Despite this, scientists at MPA have discovered in high-resolution simulations that some unique features of the first structures survive this process. Their lingering imprint could manifest itself in astronomical observations, yielding clues to the identity of dark matter. more

Go to Editor View